Big Four Satellite Operators Differ on Timetable for Adoption of Ultra-HD Television

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WASHINGTON — The four largest commercial satellite fleet operators agreed March 19 that ultra-high-definition (HD) television will arrive more quickly than its predecessor, HDTV, but they differed in their assessments of how fast it would arrive.

Speaking at the Satellite 2013 conference in Washington, the chief executives of Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat all agreed that ultra-HD would be a force in the market before the end of the decade.

Romain Bausch, chief executive of Luxembourg-based SES, appeared the most optimistic, saying that ultra-HD would be in the market in a noticeable way starting in 2015 or 2016.

Bausch said that the processing power of reception equipment today is such that an HDTV signal can be improved to near-ultra-HD levels, meaning that the stable of HDTV programming can be transformed into ultra-HD. This was not the case for HDTV because a standard-digital television broadcast could not be processed into HDTV, Bausch said.

“Scaling up the HD signal to ultra-HD is already providing a very good experience,” Bausch said. “The market adoption of ultra-HD will occur sooner, and more quickly, than what happened with HDTV.”

Michel de Rosen, chief executive of Paris-based Eutelsat, said he recently spent time watching ultra-HD programming and came away a believer.

“I am convinced that ultra-HD will be a game-changer for our world,” de Rosen said.

David McGlade, chief executive of Intelsat of Luxembourg and Washington, said ultra-HD would be a market force starting around 2016, assuming the industry settles on a signal-compression standard to succeed MPEG-4.

Without such advanced compression, McGlade said, ultra-HD will be too costly for broadcasters even if, for satellite operators, its bandwidth requirements — four times HDTV for the ultra-HD standard for 4K — is mouth-watering.

Telesat Chief Executive Daniel S. Goldberg was the least optimistic of the four, saying it will be five-plus years before ultra-HD is a serious force commercially. A lot of people have purchased HDTV-compatible televisions and will resist changing them soon, Goldberg said.

 

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